By Stephen Ubanna
Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, solicits public support to break into the rank of the smugglers’ cartel. This is because of the ambush of Customs personnel by smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities across the cross. Most worrisome was the confrontation of Customs personnel on border patrols resulting in the team personnel running for their dear life. They muster the courage to attack Customs personnel because of the sophisticated weapons used by them to carry out their trade.
Many Officers in the land border areas and the Federal Operations Unit, across the cross the country have lost their life over the years in the guise of trying to stop smugglers from entering into the Nigeria market with their goods. Ali confirmed that over 70 officers and men of the Service were killed by smugglers in 2016 alone. The Magazine learnt has been on the increase since the Federal government on the importation of rice and vehicles through the border stations.
Rice and vehicles are the most smuggled items into the country . From Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Borno, Yobe, Kwara, Cross River, Ogun, Lagos, Oyo and Ekiti states , the story is the same: smuggling of goods and appeal by area Comptrollers for public support.
Residents of Shaki , a border Community between Nigeria and Benin Republic of Benin in Oyo state may have heeded the called as they protected Customs personnel from attack of smugglers and the burning of their office over the seizure of their goods. The people of the area may have turned a new leaf to curtail the frequent clash between the youths of the Community who aid and abet the smugglers and the Customs personnel.
Ali, the Customs boss is looking forward that the residents of the border Communities in other parts of the country would through their weight behind the Customs to do their work of checkmating the nefarious activities of smugglers.
Maritime analysts believe smugglers are have their way in bringing their wares into the Nigeria market with the support of security Operatives including Customs personnel at the border areas. There is hardly any border station across the country where there are no resident officers and the Comptroller General Compliance team on the road, yet smuggled rice vehicles and other prohibited goods had continued to be smuggled into the country.
The situation is worse in Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Jigawa , Katsina, Borno and Yobe states. A senior Customs officer serving in Sokoto/Kebbi/ Zamfara Command disclosed that senior and junior Officers lobby to get posting to the Command because of the ease of making cheap money from smugglers. He gave an instance of one of the junior Officers from Imo state serving in the Command but was handed a Staff order to another Command in the south west but found his way back to the Command.
He wondered how smugglers in the area could be tackled with this type of corrupt Officers, armed with AK 47 on the road. It is not surprising why he supports Ali, mass transfer of Officers from one Command to the other including the Zonal and Customs Headquarters. He is optimistic that with the transfer of the senior Officers , it would trickle down to the rank of Customs Inspectors soon.
Until Ali goes ahead with the transfer of the junior Officers involved in carrying AK 47 in the anti-smuggling war, Haruna Mamudu, Comptroller, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos, is not leaving anything to chance in the south west comprising of Twelve Customs formations. They are Ogun, Oyo/Ekiti, Ondo/Osun, Apapa, Tincan Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, Lilipond, Ijora among others. He has read the riot act to the Officers to be on the alert as he would not tolerate any form of compromise. There have been reports making the rounds that his Officers on the road have joined the fray in getting money from smugglers of rice and vehicles to grant them easy passage through booking.
Notwithstanding the activities of smugglers in the south west to beat the Customs to it, Jerome Attah, an Assistant Superintendent and FOU, Zone A, Image maker disclosed that between January and March, 2017, the Command made 293 seizures comprising of rice, poultry products, vegetable oil, vehicles, India hemp,, arms and fake pharmaceutical products.
According to him, the seized goods which are in detention has a Duty Paid Value, DPV, of t N1.005 billion. Much of the seizures, a source told the Magazine were made within the Oyo/Ekiti and Ogun axis. The Command Mechanical workshop and the government warehouse are swarming with the seized goods. Also found in the Mechanical workshop and the government warehouse are detained Containers and truck carrying goods.
he disclosed that through the interventions of the Command, it recovered N1.56 billion from ”duty payments and demand notices on general goods that tried to beat the system from the seaports, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, and border stations in the guise of false declaration, transfer of value and underpayment. this brings to N2.05 billion the cumulative amount that was generated by the anti-smuggling Command in the first quarter of 2017.
This is money that could have entered into private pockets but for the riot of the Mamudu, the Comptroller for the Officers to sit up. The Command had several seizures in the past including issuing of demand notices but the duty paid value of the seized goods and the demand notices are not as much as what the Command generated within the first three months of 2017.
The FOU, Zone A, Customs boss has mobilised his Deputy and Assistant Comptrollers in the renewed war against smugglers to sustain the tempo at the ports and land border stations. He warned smugglers and agents who might want to take advantage of the transfer of his reliable Officers to smuggle or connive with Officers at the port to take delivery of their Containers without payment of appropriate duty.
Mamudu has thrown his weight behind Dauda. A. the Deputy Comptroller, in-charge Enforcement and the likely Assistant Comptroller to head the roving team, once headed by Adamu Mohammed, now on transfer to sustain the anti-smuggling war.
Dauda, according to a source had spent much of his time in Enugu/Eboyi Command in the south east before his transfer to the Command. He has to work with Adamu ‘s successor and likely Coordinator of the Lagos roving team. It could not be ascertained whether Mahmudu would allow the roving the team to operate independent of the Enforcement Unit as it did under Adamu.
Given the wide area covered by the Command , including the ports, many believe that the Lagos roving team should be allowed in its present form to be able to control the movement of goods and services out of the port.
1. Mahmudu Haruna: Comptroller, FOU, Zone A
By Stephen Ubanna